Sunday, December 9, 2018

Last Call For The New Adult In The Room

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will be gone by the end of the year, Mike Pence's current Chief of Staff, Nick Ayers, doesn't want the job and Stephen Mnuchin is smart enough to stay at Treasury, so who does that leave?  If the rumblings from the DC access press are right, it's NC GOP Rep. Mark Meadows, of House Freedom Caucus fame.

Over the past 24 hours, President Trump has been privately asking many people who they think should be his new chief of staff, according to three sources with direct knowledge.

What's happening: Trump has asked confidants what they think about the idea of installing Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, as John Kelly's permanent replacement, according to these three sources. Trump has also mentioned three other candidates besides Meadows, according to a source with direct knowledge. I don't yet have their names.

Nick Ayers, previously considered the favorite, is out of the running to be Kelly's replacement, according to sources with direct knowledge.

"Nick couldn't give POTUS a two-year commitment, so he's going to help him on the outside instead," one of these sources told me. (This news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.)

Ayers is expected to run the pro-Trump outside group America First, according to another source with direct knowledge. Trump will make a decision on Kelly's replacement by the end of the year, the source said.

Again, the issue is Trump believes the Mueller probe will simply blow over and go away because Sean Hannity says it will, and that January will be business as usual.  He should be looking for a way out, not a new Chief of Staff.

We'll see, but at this pointanyone actively looking for a Trump regime job has to be the worst of the worst, and that fits Meadows to a T.

The Religion Of Hate

Evangelical Christians continue to tell American Muslims to go away because they're not American enough.

Conservative pastor commentator E.W. Jackson went on an anti-Islamic tirade on his radio show Wednesday, complaining that Muslims are taking over Congress.

Jackson's remarks were in response to reports that Democrats are attempting to change a rule banning headwear on the floor of the House to accommodate incoming Muslim lawmakers such as Ilhan Omar, who was recently elected in Minnesota.

The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic,” Jackson said. “We are a Judeo-Christian country. We are a nation rooted and grounded in Christianity and that’s that. And anybody that doesn’t like that, go live somewhere else. It’s very simple. Just go live somewhere else. Don’t try to change our country into some sort of Islamic republic or try to base our country on Sharia law.”

Omar and Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) are set to be the first Muslim women in Congress.

Religious freedom of expression only applies to Christians you know, and Jews (when convenient).

Jackson in May lost a Republican primary to represent Virginia in the Senate and before that was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in the state in 2013.

During his radio show, he claimed that multiple women will be wearing hijabs on the House floor to honor Omar and not because they are themselves Muslim.

“The fact that we’re electing these people to Congress and electing them to office is just beyond the pale,” he said. “Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe in the freedom of religion, I believe in the First Amendment, but I’ll tell you what, I’m not voting for a Muslim to serve in any office. Me, personally, I’m not doing it. I’m not doing it. Period. I’m not doing it.”

Jackson said he is not Islamaphobic, but simply does not agree with the religion.

“The threat to humanity is not merely radical Islam,” he added. “The threat to humanity is Islam, period. That’s right, I said it and I mean it.”

Pretty sure Congress is better off with more Muslim women and less E.W. Jacksons.

Sunday Long Read: Pocket Full Of Miracles

Our Sunday Long Read this week finds freelance journalist Laurie Penny discovering that hell is not just other people, it is specifically other people trapped on a four-day cruise talking about cryptocurrency, and also John McAfee is there.

Two months ago, an editor from BREAKER called and asked if I wanted to go on a four-day Mediterranean cruise with hundreds of crypto-crazed investors and evangelists. We’ll cover the travel, he said. Write something long about whatever you find, he said. It was 2 a.m. and I was over-caffeinated. I remember explaining that I know almost nothing about either cruises or blockchain, in the way that Sir Ian McKellen, in the criminally underrated series Extras, explains that he is not actually a wizard. Five days later I was at the port of Barcelona, boarding a ship. By which point it was way too late to wonder for the umpteenth time about my life choices.

I knew about bitcoin only as an investment vehicle favored by several essentially sweet nerds close to my heart—and I knew, too, that cryptocurrencies are the pet untraceable funding model of the far-right. I was told there would be an overall “Burning Man theme” to the adventure, guaranteed by the presence of Brock Pierce, the cryptocurrency mogul, former child actor, and one-man art installation about peer pressure. (More about him later.) I was anticipating evenings spent listening to crypto-hippies describe the angel-faced space elves they met when they took DMT. I was expecting to fetch water and painkillers for half-conscious corporate executives with dust in their perfect hair and no idea how to get home. I was expecting to get a bit carried away and end up shouting about the government and chalking poetry all over the walls. I was expecting to hear very rich men talk without blinking about tax planning and sacred geometry. I was expecting corporate-branded swimwear. I was expecting to meet smug Californian polyamorists, about whom smug European polyamorists like me are relentlessly judgy. Reader, all of these things transpired, but by the time they did they were a blessed relief.

Let’s step back a moment. For those of you still idling by the side of the cryptocurrency bandwagon, here’s a brief primer, based on a week’s frantic pre-trip cramming. Blockchain is the technology behind cryptocurrencies, which are peer-to-peer electronic cash systems unregulated by any central authority. The system bitcoin, pioneered by an anonymous genius (or geniuses) going by the handle “Satoshi Nakamoto” in 2008, was the first digital currency. Those who bought bitcoin at the start are now on-paper squidzillionaires. Other, newer currencies like Ethereum, Ripple, and Bitcoin Cash, are emerging—and there are obvious reasons to get behind the idea of decentralizing the financial system. Beyond money, blockchain has lots of exciting potential applications with very few actual users. For instance, in October, artist Kelly Donnelly released the feminist anthem “I Am She” using Ethereum, making it, in her words, the “first unblockable music video ever released … meaning women living in censored regions like Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, and Turkey have been able to watch the video.” Sounds good to me.

In the short term, though, that’s not what most big players care about—and the major social change blockchain has brought about so far is that a small number of people have become very rich indeed. As blockchain skeptic David Gerard writes, “the cryptocurrency field is replete with scams and scammers. The technology is used as an excuse to make outlandish near-magical claims. When phrases like ‘a whole new form of money’ or ‘the old rules don’t apply any more’ start going around, people get gullible and the ethically-challenged get creative.”

A huge bitcoin price crash occurs a few hours before we set sail. As I board, I am surprised to find that nobody seems to be particularly worried. CoinsBank, the company organizing the cruise, has left little welcome gift boxes in each of the rooms. They contain painkillers, Alka-Seltzer, several condoms, the world’s flimsiest pregnancy test, and a half-bottle of J├Ągermeister. It’s the kind of thing you’d leave at the bottom of the chimney for Skeezy Uncle Santa, hoping he’ll stuff a new sex doll under your tree.

The women on this boat are polished and perfect; the men, by contrast, seem strangely cured—not like medicine, but like meat. They are almost all white, between the ages of 30 and 50, and are trying very hard to have the good time they paid thousands for, while remaining professional in a scene where many thought leaders have murky pasts, a tendency to talk like YouTube conspiracy preachers, and/or the habit of appearing in magazines naked and covered in strawberries. That last is 73-year-old John McAfee, who got rich with the anti-virus software McAfee Security before jumping into cryptocurrencies. He is the man most of the acolytes here are keenest to get their picture taken with and is constantly surrounded by private security who do their best to aesthetically out-thug every Armani-suited Russian skinhead on deck. Occasionally he commandeers the grand piano in the guest lounge, and the young live-streamers clamor for the best shot. John McAfee has never been convicted of rape and murder, but—crucially—not in the same way that you or I have never been convicted of rape or murder. I do not interview John McAfee. He interests me less than he scares the shit out of me, though his entourage seems relaxed. They’re already living in the crypto-utopia behind his strange pale-blue eyes.

The only genuinely happy person I meet on this trip is Femi, a forklift driver from Birmingham who wears a Dogecoin T-shirt and proudly shows me videos of him practicing with the samurai sword he bought with his bitcoin stash. I ask him why he’s so proud of his selfie with McAfee, given the guy’s not-unmurdery reputation.

“Well, yeah.” says Femi. Then he grins. “But he’s just a legend, isn’t he? And his wife’s really nice.”

I cannot fault this reasoning. Over the next four days I find myself drifting back to Femi and his unstoppable optimism whenever I get the urge to throw myself overboard.

I don't blame her.  Any truly transformation technology throughout history can be applied to either sex, killing, or theft, and the all-time great social advances, like the internet, are tied to all three.  Crypto is definitely the theft part, judging by the people surrounding it, and it's tiresome to hear people talk about it all the time, but as soon as somebody figures out how to use cryptocurrency for sex and or murder, it'll really take off.
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